Biology Dissertation:
Writing an Effective Contents Page


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Introduction

  As Dr Brendan Curran says, the Contents Page of a dissertation is one of the most important aspects to get right. While it’s tricky and takes time, once you have it, the whole dissertation falls into place.

In this learning resource you’ll see:

 

You’ll get the chance to write your own headings from a student’s work and to compare these with suggested headings from Dr Brendan Curran.

 

Task 1: Using the Tutorial 
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Watch the first minute of the podcast to answer the questions below:

 

 

 


a) How long should you spend writing the contents page?
b) What should a reader be able to understand from reading the contents page?
c) Dr Curran says the heading should be a series of what?

 

Click here to compare your answers

 

 

Task 2: Using the Texts

“If the student understands their subject matter properly, it will be obvious from their contents page” (Dr. Curran)
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The contents page should tell a story -  why the student did what they did, what they did, what they found and what they conclude. Look back at the Contents Page collection and read the 3 contents pages. Do they tell a story? Comment on each one. Which one gives the fullest idea of their research project?
 
Text 1:  Bacterial Growth and Diversity on Children’s Toys: Is it Significant Enough to Cause Disease?
Text 2: Assessing the Efficiency of Mouth Washes Against Streptococci Mutans
Text 3: Investigating the Regulation Heat Shock Response in Saccharomyces Cerevisiae

Click here to compare your answers

 

 

Task Three: What makes an informative heading?.
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Watch the section of the podcast again where Dr Curran gives advice about sub-headings.

Thinking Look at this heading from the Introduction section of the contents page:

Assessing the Efficiency of Mouth Washes Against Streptococci Mutans

 

Compare the heading the student wrote (i) with the one Dr Curran suggests (ii):

(i) Streptococci Mutans

(ii) Streptococci Mutans: a Very Important Bacterium in Tooth Decay

What’s the difference between the two?


Click here for suggestions

 

 

So, headings should be specifically related to the content of the section and relevant to the rest of the study. Let’s move on…

 

Task 4: Is the Heading Informative Enough?

These exercises are based on the headings from the Introduction section of Text 2 Biology Contents’ Page: Assessing the Efficiency of Mouth Washes Against Streptococci Mutans.

Look at the headings below. Does the heading make it clear to the reader what the specific section is about? (answer Yes/No) Give reasons for your answer. Compare these to the reasons given by Dr. Curran.

 

YesNoExample:

Microbiota found in the oral cavity

Does this heading make it clear to the reader what the specific section is about?

No

(For a more informative title, see the end of this section)

Heading 1: 

Oral Health, dental plaque and dental caries

Does this heading make it clear to the reader what the specific section is about?

 

Compare your answer and reasons with Dr Curran:

For a more informative title, see the end of this section

 

 

Heading 2:

Streptococci Mutans: A primary cause of dental caries.

Does this heading make it clear to the reader what the specific section is about?

 

Compare your answer and reasons with Dr Curran:

 

Heading 3  

Mouthwashes are helpful in controlling the activity of oral bacteria.

Does this heading make it clear to the reader what the specific section is about?

 

Compare your answer and reasons with Dr Curran:

 

Heading 4:  

Active ingredients in mouthwash

Does this heading make it clear to the reader what the specific section is about?

 

Compare your answer and reasons with Dr Curran:

For a more informative title, see the end of this section

 

Heading 5:

Investigation into the effects of mouthwash and bactericidal properties of mouthwash
Does this heading make it clear to the reader what the specific section is about?

 

Compare your answer and reasons with Dr Curran:

For a more informative title, see the end of this section

 

Headings 6 : 

Investigation aims
                       
Does this heading make it clear to the reader what the specific section is about?

Compare your answer and reasons with Dr Curran:

 

 

Look at the suggested headings for the Introduction of the dissertation. Read them through. Notice the way a story emerges.

1.1 The microbial species found in the oral cavity varies between individuals.
1.2 A limited number of bacterial species contribute to dental caries.
1.3 Streptococci mutans: A primary cause of dental caries.
1.4 Mouthwashes are helpful in controlling the activity of oral bacteria.
1.5 Different mouthwashes contain a variety of anti-bacterial agents.
1.6 Comparing the bactericidal (and bacteristatic) properties of a variety of mouthwashes on Streptococci mutans.

By reading only these, a reader can get an overview of the specific work done.

Think Final Tip:

Many of these headings read as a full sentence with a finite verb which gives the reader a full summary of the section.

The microbial species found in the oral cavity varies between individuals.
A limited number of bacterial species contribute to dental caries.

This may not always be the case but is something to think about when writing your own headings. See Part 2 of the resource for more work on this.

 

 

ReadTask Four:  Making Headings More Informative

Read the headings of Chapter 1 of the text ‘Bacterial Growth and Diversity on Children’s Toys: Is it Significant Enough to Cause Disease?’ What is the problem with each? Read sections 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3 of the dissertation and decide upon a more informative title.

 

Heading 1:  Children's Nursery at Queen Mary University

What is the problem with this heading?

 

Click here for 3 suggested problems

 

 

 

Write The study looks at communal toys, bacteria and child-care facilities in general. Can you suggest a more informative title?

 

Click here for a suggested answer

 

 

Think Dr Curran says:

Heading 2: Infant immunity

What is the problem with this heading?

 

Click here for 2 suggested problems

 

 


Write The heading needs to explain which aspect(s) of immunity will be addressed by this study. Can you suggest a more informative title?

Click here for suggested heading:

 

 

Think Dr Curran says:

 

Heading 3:  Toys


 What is the problem with this heading?


Click here for 3 suggested problems

 

 

 

Write The heading needs to explain which aspect of toys is addressed and have the material used in the manufacture process as the key issue.

Click here for suggested heading:

 

Think Dr Curran says:

 

Get the idea? Getting a good heading takes thought. The next tutorial gives practice in writing informative headings for the Results section.